Happy International Nurses' Day!

Updated: May 12

Tomorrow is 12th of May which is International Nurses' Day, also Florence Nightingale's birthday. The year 2020 also happens to be the Year of the Nurse, so it is a big day for nurses. But we are in the middle of a pandemic. Definitely not how any of us expected to be spending it. I wonder what Flo would be thinking of how we are celebrating her 200th birthday.

I wonder, would she be proud? During her time, nursing was not even seen as a profession. However thanks to her it became, for a while, a much sought after role, especially for women. An opportunity to make a difference in a time where for women it was almost impossible to do. We owe much of how we nurse today down to her. Much of the medical and caring professions do too. More than we think.

Florence Nightingale brought nursing to the forefront during the Crimean War. To a place filled with fear and despair, she and her fellow nurses brought hope. It is interesting to see the parallels happening now. During this pandemic, nurses are bringing light and hope to a desperately challenging situation. Nursing has returned to the forefront. Nurses are being respected again. Our roles have dramatically changed since The Lady with the Lamp. We are often leading the care for many of our patients. Not only in hospitals, but in the community and care homes. The public are starting to realise their may be more to nurses than their smiles and tea making skills. We are highly educated and skilled individuals.

We are at the heart of this pandemic. I am not just talking about in the UK. Nurses in infected countries across the world are in the leading position in the deliverance of care to some of the most vulnerable. For example I recently read about Vanderlecia Ortega dos Santos, aka Vanda to her friends and family. She is providing front-line care to an indigenous community of 700 families from the coronavirus outbreak in the Brazilian city of Manaus. She is a nurse.

The nursing community has always been a close one. A shared common purpose unites us. During this pandemic we have been drawn even closer together. The support from friends, family, and the public is paramount. Other healthcare professionals (who create an endless list) are incredible and understand to an extent. However, like how we cannot completely understand their experiences, no one knows what it is really like to be a nurse, except other nurses. We joke about a shared trauma. But the more I think about it, that is exactly what it is. It either brings you closer together, or tears you apart. Thankfully we are closer than ever.

A couple of weeks ago, I was privileged enough to share my story alongside a fellow ICU nurse from Boston. In the BBC World Service podcast The Conversation, Bianca and I discussed our experiences. Being from opposite sides of the Atlantic meant there were some obvious differences but I was struck how similar our experiences were. How similar our beliefs and values were. The reasons why we love nursing are the same. The reasons why this pandemic has been challenging for us were the same.

This is a day for celebration, but this year it is also a sombre one. Many nurses have lost their lives during this pandemic. Lost their lives caring and supporting others. A sacrifice no one expected to make.

I am so proud to be a nurse. Just as proud now as I was before the pandemic. I am working a night shift tomorrow. I could not think of a better way to spend the night celebrating the work of my nursing colleagues, and to commemorate the lives of fellow nurses . I wish all nurses around the world a very Happy International Nurses' Day. You are all incredible. And Happy 200th Birthday Flo!

Check out The Conversation:

Image Credit: Sara Paglia

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